This is a fictional post in response to WordPress’s Daily Prompt “Fright Night”.
As part of the FutureLearn Start Writing Fiction course I am participating in, I have edited my first draft of this post. Please feel free to comment on what you think could be cut out, changed or added. We are told to be ruthless in the editing. Finding it hard!
My first reaction to today’s prompt was that it called for some kind of horror story – perhaps I could start with a late walk home and the sound of footsteps stalking me in the dark…or did it suggest a haunted house, creaking noises throughout the house, the roar of the wind buffeting the trees, an owl hooting, bumps and whispers in the cold night – supernatural? Or perhaps a sudden shock – a loud clap of thunder, an explosion? But no, when I think of “fright night”, I can’t help but think of that night so long ago.
I used to spend most of my time around Joss, either because I wanted to make her like me, when she didn’t, or to keep her liking me when she did. Then that night, so suddenly, she wasn’t there any more. It was like all the lights had gone out…
I was angry. Surely she had done this to get me back. I had decided, for the one and only time in my life, to do what I wanted to do, which was to go home with my school-friend to do our homework together. Thinking Joss would get over it just as soon as she found somebody else who would do what she wanted, which was to take out a boat on the lake, I had left her fuming at the park gates.
At teatime, Mum had sent me back to the park to look for her. It was almost deserted. There was Emma on the court though, packing up. No Joss. I ran down to the chain-link fence and screamed out to her. Yes, she had seen Joss after school, walking down by the lake. No, Joss hadn’t been at the courts today.
As I arrived back in the house, Mum was on the phone to the most likely park friends. Yes she had been in the park, they reported, but they hadn’t seen her since 4.45pm. It was now six o’clock and Mum had sent the boys out to look.
“Thank you, I’ll have to go now” The receiver clattered as she flung it down onto its cradle, but she picked it right up again to report Joss missing. According to the Police, they would search the streets with their squad cars, and most kids her age reported missing are found the same day close to home. No cause for alarm at this stage, please make sure she isn’t in the house.
Thinking that she had probably got bored and gone to the shops, we did expect her to walk in at any moment. Maybe she had decided to find a new way home, and got lost. Time ticked away. More calls were made, to the hospital, to relatives, but there was no further news.
When the police arrived, everyone had to make a separate statement. I got an older cop who looked a bit like my Grandpa. He had a thread of white saliva between his teeth that persisted in showing itself every time he spoke. He wanted to know the last time I saw her – at the park gates after school, about 3.45pm. He wanted to know if we had had a fight. Not really, I just didn’t do what she wanted. He wanted to know what I did from the time I woke up that day, in detail, over and over. And over.
He questioned Emma too. She had thought it a bit strange that Joss just hurried past her without replying to her “Hello”. Yes, it was unusual to see Joss by herself. She might have looked a bit worried, but it was definitely her, because she was wearing the red polka dot shorts and the new tennis shoes that she had shown Emma yesterday afternoon when she, Emma, had won their game of tennis. She had been on her way to the courts today, and Joss had been walking in the other direction, towards the main road. At the time she passed Joss, there were quite a few people in the park, but she didn’t remember seeing anyone else that she recognized. Yes, she did see someone unusual, she had passed a man, who stood out because he was wearing a suit. No she had never seen him before. Emma said she wasn’t aware of any problems Joss had. Joss always seemed happy.
As it got later and later, our anxiety thickened. It was when we saw the dogs that it turned to solid fear. It was a horror story. Written on Mum’s face with every word, as they told her that the dogs had stopped following Jocelyn’s scent exactly where the lake meets the main road. They thought she had either got into a car, or there was that possibility – that she was in the lake.
Even I knew she wouldn’t be in the lake, for one thing I knew it wasn’t all that deep, and for another, she could swim perfectly well. The implication of their words did not dawn on me till much later.
Mum was distraught. I was immobilized. When Dad had arrived home, the police had questioned him before he had a chance to talk to any of us. Standard procedure. Same with the boys when they came back in.
My parents must have allowed the police to search the house because they invaded it, clomping through every room, even the attic, which had been locked for as long as I could remember. Our possessions were scrutinized and several things were taken away in brown paper bags, including my diary and Joss’s hairbrush. The attitude of the officers changed. From reassuring, to investigative. From routine, to urgent.
There was no possibility of sleep. None. We all sat in the front room going over and over it. I must have dozed off eventually though, and been carried up to bed, because I was in my own bed when I woke up. It was just getting light and I could hear the birds singing. I rubbed my eyes and saw the empty bed. She was still gone.